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Methadone Bottle“Why would you want to live like that for years, when you could be drug-free?”

When a long term opiate addict now in recovery says he chose to get off drugs – all drugs – instead of going on a methadone program that could trap him for years, maybe it’s time more people paid attention to what he and thousands like him have to say.

Nicholas Colvin of Annapolis, MD, a former opiate addict, told the Maryland Capital Gazette recently, “I haven’t heard of a long-term success story for methadone. You’re still in that mind frame — you need this other substance to get your day started, illegal or not. Why would you want to live like that for years when you could be drug-free? It’s another form of control and it’s not freedom.”

Colvin said he’s been drug-free since July 6, 2012. And he says he “beat his addiction to heroin, cocaine and Percocet without methadone.”

So Colvin is living proof – one of millions around the world – who have gotten themselves free from opiate addiction without relying on a secondary addiction to methadone, in the hope that someday, somehow, you’ll manage to get off methadone.

But those tens of thousands of Americans are buying the methadone fairy tale from a lot of heavy hitters – people calling themselves addiction experts and even scientists. People like

Dr. Babak Imanoel, medical director of Adult Addiction in Maryland.

According to the Gazette, Imanoel said that methadone isn’t meant to cure addiction but treat it. He said it is the most effective because it relieves pain and gives patients structure.

“What people want to focus on,” Imanoel told the Gazette, “is ‘How long do you have to be on this?’ My answer is how long does someone with diabetes have to be on insulin?”

Well there you have it. The good doctor, a self-styled addiction “expert,” is clearly stating that once an opiate addict has been switched to methadone, that’s it for life. Because any doctor will tell you, cases of coming back from diabetes and insulin are, well, pretty much zero.

Our reply to Dr. Imanoel’s claim that methadone “relieves pain and gives patients structure.”

You want to be free of pain and get some structure back in your life?


Nicholas Colvin said from his experience, inpatient care is most effective but it isn’t accessible to most drug addicts because they usually lack insurance. Colvin went to an inpatient program in Crownsville, MD, called Hope House, that offers counseling, support and medical care. He became a certified recovery specialist after completing the program himself.

Colvin said prisoners released after completing their sentences are directed for continued treatment at Dr. Imanoel’s methadone clinic. But, Colvin added that he saw many people relapse and find their way back to jail. When questioned about this, Imanoel told the Gazette that relapses at the clinic’s methadone program are “common” but the counselors and nurses “work with the patients” to get them back on track.

Meanwhile, the methadone proponents trumpet loudly about their low relapse rates. It’s those who attempt to get off opiates without an alternative drug like methadone that do all the relapsing, they say. Maybe they should pay a visit to a real methadone clinic and take a really good look.

Just like Nicholas Colvin and countless thousands of others, people are getting their lives back every day across America without having to stay addicted for goodness knows how long to a secondary opiate like methadone.

First of all, methadone is not a “treatment.” The word “treatment” means to relieve or cure something. Repeat: Relieve or cure something.

So what is the “something” you’re trying to treat? It’s called Addiction – the need to consume a drug every day in order to survive. You’re trying to relieve or cure addiction.

So what is methadone? An opiate. What does it do? Keeps you addicted.

Now, explain how anyone can say that giving methadone to an opiate addict is a “treatment”?

It does nothing to relieve addiction, because you’re still addicted. So it certainly does nothing to cure addiction.

To actually treat the addiction, to relieve or cure addiction now, you need to get off methadone.

But you could have done that with the heroin or Vicodin or Oxycodone in the first place.

That is the message Nicholas Colvin was trying to convey at the outset of this blog.

Now comes the second, and even more horrifying aspect of methadone so-called treatment:

  1. It’s more difficult to get off then heroin or oxycodone or hydrocodone or any other opiate. It takes longer and it hurts more.
  2. As the tolerance for methadone increases, you need more every day to ward off withdrawal symptoms.
  3. So the longer you are on methadone, the greater the chances of raising your dosage to levels that are widely considered UNtreatable.

So much for methadone “treatment.”

The punch-line for this scary scenario is this. If an addict decides that the time has finally come to become drug free at last, getting off a high-dose methadone addiction can be a nightmare. Stepping down from a high dose, even with medical assistance, can be an invitation to failure.

Also, few drug detox centers will accept high-dose methadone addicts for treatment – real  treatment, that is, getting free from addiction once and for all. You have to look far and wide to find a reliable detox clinic that knows how to deal with high dose methadone addiction. Because it is not an easy thing to do without a lot of specialized knowledge and experience.

Here at Novus, we have that knowledge and experience. We are one of the few medical detox centers in the country that accepts high-dose methadone patients. We routinely achieve great results, and our patients leave feeling better than they’ve felt in years. They’ve finally won their years-long battle for independence from daily shots of methadone. At last, they are drug free and ready to get their lives back.

If you or someone you care about is in trouble with opiate dependence or addiction, do everyone a favor. Call Novus and get the help you need right now. Don’t opt for the methadone addiction prison. Let us help get you or your loved one off drugs, right now.

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Zohydro ER, the extended release hydrocodone prescription painkiller that caused a firestorm when the FDA approved it over a year ago, has finally been released in a new abuse-resistant formulation.

An extended release painkiller contains 5 or 6 times as much opioid as a single-dose pill. It’s intended to be released slowly over many hours after you take it.

But addicts want to get all that opioid in a single hit by crushing it into a powder and snorting it, or mixing it in a liquid and shooting it up with a syringe.

The new Zohydro ER is made using something called BeadTek technology, which is designed to deter abuse “without changing the release properties of hydrocodone when Zohydro ER is used as intended,” says the announcement from the pill’s maker, Zoegenix, Inc., of San Diego, CA.

The company claims that, when the new pill is crushed and mixed into a liquid or solvent, the BeadTek technology turns it into a viscous gel that’s impossible to use in a syringe.

The product label won’t include the abuse-deterrence claim until later in the year after the company finishes “Human Abuse Liability studies” of the pill’s new abuse-deterrent properties and submits the results to the FDA. These findings will affect the wording for the label.

Original FDA approval ignited a firestorm

Zohydro ER, the first pure hydrocodone extended release pill ever, with no abuse deterrence at all, was asking the FDA for approval to bring it to market.

We already knew that hydrocodone was the most abused prescription opioid in America – even mixed, as it always was with acetaminophen in drugs like Lortab, Norco and Vicodin.

Also, the country had already endured the horrors unleashed by Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin – a pure oxycodone extended release painkiller that triggered a decade of addictions, overdose deaths and ruined lives across the country.

Purdue Pharma had come out with an anti-abuse version of OxyContin back in 2012, and it was seen as making a difference. Well actually, sending most addicts on to heroin or over to the various other painkillers like hydrocodone, hydromorphone and others.

But now, here came Zohydro ER, pure hydrocodone with no built-in deterrence. It looked to everyone concerned like OxyContin all over again.

The FDA’s approval of the original Zohydro ER ignited a firestorm of adverse reaction in the media, letters to the FDA from institutions all over the country, even demands that the head of the FDA resign. Criticism came not just from the public, but also from a wide cross-section of the medical profession. The consensus was that Zohydro ER offered nothing but more danger of abuse and deaths from overdose, since there was no real need seen for more opioid painkillers.

Not only did the FDA approve Zohydro ER as-is in the face of all this criticism, it did so against the direct recommendation of its own medical, scientific and research advisory committee to disapprove the drug and keep it off the market.

DEA classifies hydrocodone as even more dangerous

Last year, not too long after the FDA approved the original Zohydro ER and after more than a decade of hemming and hawing, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) finally rescheduled hydrocodone-containing meds as Schedule II drugs, up from Schedule III.

In plain English, this meant it was finally acknowledged that hydrocodone is just as dangerous as oxycodone, which has always been Schedule II.

We at Novus were pleased to report on the DEA rescheduling of hydrocodone, since we see the harm that hydrocodone has brought to so many of our patients. Hydrocodone is among the top killer drugs in America.

And believe it or not, 99 percent of all hydrocodone is consumed right here in America. The rest of the world just isn’t interested, because there are plenty of other prescription opioids to choose from. And many, if not most pain management specialists, even here in America, question the need for more.

Also, late last year, Purdue Pharma came out with its own anti-abuse hydrocodone extended release painkiller, with the company’s abuse-resistance technology built in. Called Hysingla ER, it’s abuse-deterrent technology “discourages” chewing, crushing, snorting or injecting.

Even a legitimate prescription can lead to hydrocodone dependence

Let’s not forget that there are many medical patients who take legitimate, doctor-ordered hydrocodone or other opioids for pain, who then become dependent on the drugs – abuse-resistant or not. These people need to be carefully weaned off those drugs, but some of them actually become addicted.

So here we are, in a country awash in prescription opioid painkillers (there are dozens) and countless thousands of prescription opioid painkiller addicts, and we have not one, but two new ones. And doctors often find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place – wanting to help their patients, but at the same time wanting to avoid over-medicating with seriously addictive painkillers.

There is a movement afoot among pain specialists and researchers to find solutions for mild and moderate pain other than opioids and opiates. Some approaches are already being used, but it’s rough going when the American public is demanding opioids, and nearly all regular doctors know very little about alternatives. Perhaps this will be the subject of a future blog.

Meanwhile, here at Novus, we’re known far and wide for our medical breakthroughs in opioid detoxification, including hydrocodone. Our proprietary opioid detox protocols result in much more comfortable detox experiences for our patients, and even improves patients’ overall health. Patients often remark as they’re leaving, “I haven’t felt this good in years, even before I got into trouble with (substance abuse).”

If you or someone you care for has a problem with opioid dependence or addiction, don’t hesitate to call us. We are always here to help.

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crying-baby The rate of babies being born in Canada’s province of Ontario suffering from opioid withdrawal has soared to more than 15 times what it was 20 years ago.

Newborn withdrawal, called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), grew in Ontario from about 0.3 per 1,000 live births in 1992 to 4.3 per 1,000 in 2011 – in all, nearly 3,100 infants born suffering the same frightful withdrawal symptoms that adult addicts go through when kicking opioid dependence.

And newborn babies don’t have whatever tiny bit of comfort there might be in at least knowing why they’re in so much pain and that it will eventually be over.

Two major facts point at a most disturbing situation:

  • Nearly all the mothers were dependent on prescription opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine from their physicians, not street drugs like heroin or illicit opioid painkillers.
  • Most of the increase occurred in just the past 5 years – over 1,900 babies, 2/3 of the total 3,100.

The past 5 years has seen negative publicity at an all-time high about the dangers of overprescribing opioid pain killers. Canadians should have expected their doctors to back off from the unhealthy rates of prescribing opioids that occurred through the 1990s and early 2000s. But it appears some Canadian doctors didn’t get the memo, as the saying goes.

The research, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says women were prescribed opioids both before and during pregnancy. Principal researcher Dr. Suzanne Turner, a physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto who specializes in providing obstetrical care for women with addictions, said the study suggests that many women were prescribed opioid painkillers to treat pain prior to or during their pregnancies, and then at some point a dependence or an addiction was identified and they were switched to methadone.

Current medical opinion holds that methadone withdrawal is a little easier on newborns. Although switching one dependence (painkillers) for another (methadone) hardly sounds like treatment for most people. But in the case of pregnancy, an opioid- dependent mother-to-be must not attempt to detox because it is dangerous to the fetus.

“That’s really important because we know that methadone is actually good in [such a] pregnancy because it stabilizes mom, and babies are more likely to be born at term and at high birth weight and healthy.”

Of course, Turner’s use of the term “healthy” doesn’t mean that these newborns don’t face a week or two of methadone withdrawal hell, unless they are carefully weaned from a replacement drug such as morphine.

“The concern to me is how do we address the fact that they were prescribed opiates prior to pregnancy and is there something we can do at that stage to prevent the transition to addiction and then requiring methadone,” she asked. “This is a treatable condition. If the babies get morphine, which is typically the standard of care, they’re not in withdrawal and then we slowly wean them off that dose of morphine over time.”

Addiction to prescription opioids now exceeds heroin addiction as the most common reason to offer methadone as a “treatment.” Turner says that preventing addiction by using alternative pain-relief therapies when possible would pay dividends for both mothers and their babies. “It speaks to the fact that doctors need to be aware there is the risk of addiction if women are prescribed opiates prior to pregnancy, and if they’re of child-bearing age, those risks should be assessed.”

Turner added that doctors and other caregivers need to counsel women that using any opioid during pregnancy can lead to NAS. She said this is especially important information for women with addictions because of the uncommonly high risk of unplanned pregnancies.

Here at Novus, we deal with opioid/opiate painkiller dependencies and addictions on a daily basis. If you or someone you care for needs help with opioid dependence, don’t hesitate to call us. We’ll help you find the right solution for your situation.

Image courtesy of arztsamui at

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Sleepy Teen on Books

A recent study at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, has found that marijuana is strongly associated with “excessive daytime sleepiness” in adolescents.

Medical researchers at the hospital were trying to figure out why ordinary teens might suffer from a condition called narcolepsy – uncontrollably nodding off at unpredictable moments, sometimes in the middle of a conversation – since it’s predominantly a condition in adults, not kids.

The researchers reviewed the last 10 years of sleep studies on 383 teenagers who had been sent to the hospital’s Sleep Center for excessive daytime sleepiness. They found that 10 percent of the kids who tested positive for narcolepsy also tested positive for marijuana.

Also, nearly half of those kids who tested positive for marijuana – 43 percent to be exact – had abnormal sleep problems, some that were fully consistent with narcolepsy.

Finally, boys were more likely than girls to have both a positive marijuana drug screen and the sleep disorder called narcolepsy.

Always check for drugs first, says doc

Now comes the good news: After taking part in drug counseling and cutting back or eliminating marijuana use, the weed smokers were apparently no longer affected by “excessive daytime sleepiness” or narcolepsy.

Mark Splaingard, MD, a faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and director of the hospital’s sleep center, said that a diagnosis of narcolepsy in teens shouldn’t be accepted until the patient has been drug tested. Adult studies already have concluded that numerous medications as well as illicit drugs can affect results of sleep tests and can lead to a false diagnosis of narcolepsy, and it turns out the same holds true for kids.

“Our findings highlight and support the important step of obtaining a urine drug screen, in any patients older than 13 years of age,” Dr. Splaingard said, “in any studies looking at the prevalence of narcolepsy in adolescents – especially with the recent trend in marijuana decriminalization and legalization.”

A sleep study determines if someone has narcolepsy or some other excessive daytime sleep disorder. It involves coming to the sleep center for 4 or 5 days in a row and taking a nice afternoon nap while sleep specialists monitor several factors, such as how fast you fall asleep, how deep the sleep is (measured by Rapid Eye Movement or REM) and physical activity like jerking, frequent leg movements, rolling over and frequency of partially waking up and going back to sleep.

“A key finding of this study is that marijuana use may be associated with excessive daytime sleepiness in some teenagers,” said Dr. Splaingard. “A negative urine drug screen finding is an important part of the clinical evaluation before accepting a diagnosis of narcolepsy and starting treatment in a teenager.”

The message here is that anyone with teenage sons or daughters, or adolescent students, employees or friends who are nodding off during the day, should check on drug use by those kids first, before the time and expense of researching sleep disorders.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

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Susan Shapiro Susan Shapiro, best-selling American author of nine books and an award-winning professor of writing at The New School and New York University, says a serious, 27-year addiction to marijuana almost ruined her life. And because of how marijuana negatively impacted her life, and new scientific evidence of its side effects, she says she’s ambivalent about the current trend to legalize the drug.

In a recent opinion piece written for the Providence Journal, Shapiro says that in 2014 the US “went cannabis crazy,” with 18 states now having legalized marijuana.

“Colorado opened boutiques selling ‘mountain high suckers’ in grape and butterscotch flavors,” Shapiro writes. “In my New York home, I’m glad that someone can carry up to 50 joints and no longer get thrown in the joint. Yet I worry that user-friendly laws and such recent screen glorifications as “High Maintenance” and “Kid Cannabis” send young people a message that getting stoned is cool and hilarious.

“I know the dark side,” Shapiro explained. “I’m ambivalent about legalizing marijuana because I was addicted for 27 years. After starting to smoke weed at Bob Dylan concerts when I was 13, I saw how it can make you say and do things that are provocative and perilous. I bought pot in bad neighborhoods at 3 a.m., confronted a dealer for selling me a dime bag of oregano, let shady pushers I barely knew deliver marijuana like pizza to my home. I mailed weed to my vacation spots and smoked a cocaine-laced joint a bus driver offered when I was his only passenger.

“Back then Willie Nelson songs, Cheech and Chong routines and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” made getting high seem kooky and harmless. My reality was closer to Walter White’s self-destruction from meth on TV’s “Breaking Bad” and the delusional nightmares in the film “Requiem for a Dream.”

Shapiro says that marijuana became an extreme addiction, but that she was finally able to kick the addiction and has been free of drug use for nearly a decade. She adds, however, that she’s far from alone in suffering from marijuana addiction.

A 2012 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals that half of all people who smoke marijuana on a daily basis will become addicted. Roughly 2.7 million people already are marijuana addicts, and nearly 17 percent of those who get high as teenagers will become addicted to marijuana.

Shapiro also points out how the strength of the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana has increased dramatically in recent years. “The weed of today is far stronger than in the past,” she writes. “The new edible pot products can be 10 times stronger than a traditional joint, says a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. How you react to marijuana depends on your size, what you’ve eaten, the medications you take. As I tapered off, one hit from a pipe or bong could leave me reeling, as if I’d had five drinks.”

Shapiro listed some of the dangers of marijuana, according to recent research:

  • Marijuana causes more car accidents than any other illicit drug
  • Marijuana doubles the risk of being in a car accident if you drive soon after smoking it
  • Marijuana contributed to 12 percent of traffic deaths in the U.S. in 2010, triple the rate of a decade earlier.

The medical side effects are also significant:

  • Smoking marijuana increases the risk of lung cancer 8 percent – British and New Zealand studies.
  • Smoking marijuana associated with bronchitis, respiratory infections and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke – New England Journal of Medicine.
  • Frequent marijuana use by teenagers and young adults causes cognitive decline and decreases IQ – another 2014 study.

“Marijuana essentially fries your brain,” Shapiro says. “Before jumping on the buzzed bandwagon, throwing a pot dessert party or voting to lift all restrictions, ask yourself and your kids: Is the high worth the lows? We shouldn’t send pot smokers to prison, but they don’t belong on pop-culture pedestals either.”

Susan Shapiro is the author of nine popular books, including Five Men Who Broke My Heart, Only as Good as Your Word, Lighting Up, Speed Shrinking, Overexposed and coauthor of The Bosnia List and the New York Times bestseller Unhooked: How To Quit Anything.

Shapiro has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Nation, The Daily Beast,, Glamour and Marie Claire and many others. She is also on the board of the National Book Critics Circle.

Here at Novus Medical Detox Center, we help our patients recover their lives after falling prey to dependence and addiction, and many of them cite marijuana and alcohol in their teenage years as the forerunner of what later became addiction. If you or anyone you care for is having a problem with alcohol or drugs, including marijuana, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re always here to help.

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Last November, 60 percent of the citizens of California voted “Yes” on the controversial Proposition 47, also known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, which reduces non-violent drug-related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.

The new law affects “non-serious, nonviolent crimes” unless the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses or certain gun crimes.

Also, anyone already serving a sentence now can be re-sentenced. That means defendants in drug treatment as a result of a Drug Court sentence can now walk out of treatment without finishing it and not suffer the consequence of a felony conviction on their record. Until now, Drug Court-ordered treatments had to be completed to have the felony conviction scrubbed.

The effects of Prop. 47 are being felt throughout most of the state. And in Southern California’s affluent Orange County (OC), the new law is creating a massive stir. Since the vote was enacted, OC officials say admissions at government-funded treatment centers have dropped significantly. They blame Prop. 47, which has effectively neutered Drug Court magistrates who can no longer entice many drug offenders to enter treatment with the reward of a scrubbed felony conviction when they graduate.

And in spite of the fact that the county just added another $1.7 million to its already generous $9.4-million public detox and rehab fund, Court officials say they’re “bracing for a big drop in applicants.”

Paul Shapiro, the OC’s Superior Court coordinator of collaborative courts, told the OCRegister that Drug Court was averaging about 50 evaluations each month during 2014 until Prop. 47 passed in November. Since then, Shapiro said, there were only 25 evaluations in November, and this dropped to 15 in December. Shapiro said there’s still some hope that the decline will let up or reverse.

But other professionals told the paper that if addicts are referred to the program, they may decline treatment because there’s no threat of a felony record. Without that motivation to enter treatment, “a lot of people will just wait until they hit another barrier,” said Cathy Stills, executive director of a treatment center called Hope House. “This might be an overdose, a car crash, or something more serious.”

Proponents of Prop 47 say there are other means and methods to encourage drug dependent offenders to enter treatment than “threatening them with a felony.” They should be treated like any other drug addict with life problems, and dealt with on a personal level, they say.

But Superior Court Judge Matthew Anderson, who’s been presiding over the Drug Court program for 15 years, says otherwise. According to the OCRegister, Anderson dismissed the notion that society needs to readjust how it helps addicts. He said Drug Court already did that when it was introduced nationally more than 20 years ago. “We’ve been dealing with drug addiction for decades, and before drug courts came into being, the criminal justice system was struggling mightily,” Anderson said.

Anderson pointed to the Drug Court’s successes: Of the 1,911 people who’ve graduated since it began in Orange County in 1995, 28.8 percent were arrested again – far lower than the 74.4 percent recidivism rate cited for those who didn’t complete drug court. “It’s unfortunate that a program as prominent and successful as Drug Court could be placed at risk here,” Anderson told the OCRegister.

It seems that Southern California is the most natural region for something like Prop. 47 to pass. And that’s especially true in Orange County, the home of Disneyland, the World Series-winning Anaheim Angels, the Stanley Cup-winning Anaheim Ducks and a whole slew of Fortune 500 companies.

OC is also home to more than 3 million Southern Californians who appear to enjoy a generally higher standard of living than many of their 4 million neighbors just to the north in the City of Los Angeles. Orange County denizens tend to think they have everything a little better than their fellow citizens to the north – things like less urban blight and lower unemployment, better jobs and housing and newer, better schools for their more-privileged kids.

Orange County and Los Angeles County together make up the Los Angeles metropolitan area. With a population of 10 million, it’s the second-largest metropolitan area in the US, after the New York metropolitan area with 24 million residents. And even when Orange County and Los Angeles County are combined with their three neighboring counties – San Bernardino, Riverside, and Ventura counties, which makes up what’s known as Greater Los Angeles, totaling over 18 million people – Southern California still comes in behind New York as far as population goes.

If you drive the 50 or so miles of colorful coastal highway from Long Beach in L.A. south to San Clemente, where OC ends and San Diego begins, you pass through a half dozen or so of the wealthiest beach communities in the country – Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point (famous for surfing) and at the southernmost point, San Clemente, where President Richard Nixon’s ‘Western White House’ entertained world leaders, and where the former President lived after his retirement. Nixon was an OC boy himself, born and raised in Yorba Linda.

Yet in recent years, in spite of being perceived as a Mecca for the privileged Southern California lifestyle, OC has been plagued by a rising tide of drugs and addiction. Like the rest of America, the county has had to cope with the soaring crime rates and overdose deaths and other family tragedies that accompany widespread drug abuse.

And if you tune in to Southern California radio or TV news you’re going to hear this sprawling, ethnically diverse region called “The Southland” – fabled home to countless millionaires whose handsome, smiling faces you see every day on TV and in the movies. Southern California breeds a feeling, an attitude, that you’re in the best of all possible places – the best opportunities, best weather, best beaches, best surfing and, of course, wall-to-wall movie stars.

Two things are clear from all this. First, higher living standards, great surfing and movies stars offer no protection from the negative personal and societal effects of drug and alcohol abuse. In fact, in some way, actually encourage drug abuse.

And second, since Prop 47 has passed, the people of OC and the entire state of California need to come up with something pretty quick to deal with the soaring numbers of law-breaking drug offenders, something as effective as Drug Court, or hopefully, even better.

Meanwhile, here at Novus Medical Detox Center, we’re still hard at work helping our patients recover their lives after falling prey to drugs and alcohol. And according to the smiles on their faces and what they tell us, we’re doing one heck of a good job. If you or anyone you care for is having a problem with drugs or alcohol, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re always here to help.

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Categories: Drug News, Drug Overdose #

The New Jersey State Supreme Court has acquitted a young mother of child abuse and neglect after her newborn infant exhibited symptoms of methadone withdrawal.

The unanimous ruling by the State’s six Supreme Court Justices has reversed an earlier appellate court decision that the mother was guilty of abuse and neglect. The woman, called “Yvonne” in the court records, could retain custody of the baby boy, the appellate court had ruled, but only under state supervision.

The Supreme Court reversed that decision, saying the mother was taking methadone on doctor’s orders, so it couldn’t be considered neglect and abuse. She had become dependent on opiate painkillers prescribed for injuries sustained in a car accident, the records said. And when she became pregnant, she wanted to stop the painkillers, but doctors at the hospital told her to switch to methadone from the painkillers. Suddenly stopping the painkillers could jeopardize her pregnancy, she was told.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the appellate court with instructions it would have to find some other evidence of abuse and neglect, because the evidence as presented was insufficient for such a finding.

Baby was born dependent on methadone

When the baby boy was born in early 2011, he displayed symptoms of methadone withdrawal, and had to stay in the hospital for several weeks. The NJ Division of Youth and Family Services filed a complaint, asking the family courts to seize the infant and place him in state custody.

A family court judge ruled in favor of the state, even though Yvonne was on methadone at the orders of a physician. The judge pointed out that Yvonne’s drug history dated back to 2005 and allegedly included cocaine and heroin. The judge acknowledged that Yvonne had not used those drugs while pregnant, but ruled that she could have custody of the baby but only under state supervision.

Yvonne’s case was appealed, and that’s when the appellate court upheld the family court’s decision. But the appellate court only cited the newborn’s methadone withdrawal symptoms, and ignored the earlier drug use. And it said that “the fact that defendant obtained the methadone from a legal source does not preclude our consideration of the harm it caused to the newborn.”

The Supreme Court says the appellate court made a mistake by basing its decision only on the baby’s withdrawal symptoms. It added that the court should be more careful not to make rulings that could cause pregnant women to avoid drug treatment for fear of losing their babies to the state.

The Supreme Court said that unless there are special circumstances, “a finding of abuse or neglect cannot be sustained based solely on a newborn’s enduring methadone withdrawal following a mother’s timely participation in a bona fide treatment program prescribed by a licensed health care professional to whom she has made full disclosure.”

States, feds don’t agree on legal issues

The situations surrounding pregnancy and drugs and the effects on babies has never been resolved legally at the federal or state level, and states continue to go their own way.

In some states, the fact of drug abuse while pregnant vs taking a prescription as ordered is not the issue. Simply bearing a child dependent on a drug is actionable, as in the case of NJ going after Yvonne. Fortunately for Yvonne, the Supreme Court disagreed and has probably set a new precedent for New Jersey.

Yet in some other states, no legal action is taken except in cases of clear drug abuse. In a few states child welfare always gets involved, while in others a mom can be charged with a crime. In at least one state, Tennessee, she can be charged with criminal liability, receive jail time and possibly lose custody of her baby – although there are political movements afoot to hopefully reduce the severity in Tennessee.

In some of our earlier blogs we have addressed the issues of drugs and pregnancy. Last year we reported on the fact that the number of babies being born dependent on methadone is definitely increasing. In another blog we reported how the number of newborns suffering any opioid dependency has tripled in the past few years. And in an important story last year, we covered the recent science proving that babies born dependent on opioids are at much greater risk of becoming drug abusers later in life.

This is a problem with many different viewpoints on what to do after the fact. Meanwhile, the optimum solution is to be off drugs before getting pregnant, which means encouraging more users to make the decision to end their dependence or addiction, but especially women of child-bearing age.

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Categories: Methadone #

The executive team at Purdue Pharma, the maker of the opiate painkiller OxyContin, may soon be swallowing samples of their own product trying to dull the pain of a $1 billion civil suit filed against the company by the state of Kentucky.

novusrxOxyContin was at the center of a burgeoning prescription painkiller abuse epidemic almost since its introduction in the mid-1990s. The time-release oxycodone tablets were an immediate hit – no pun intended – with opiate users, abusers and addicts from coast to coast.

Almost immediately, reports began to pour in from all over the country of skyrocketing addictions and deaths attributed to OxyContin. No region in the country was harder hit than the Appalachians, especially in Eastern Kentucky where OxyContin was nicknamed “Hillbilly Heroin.”

It got so bad everywhere in the country that the federal government was pressured to investigate. What the Justice Department found was cause for legal action. Purdue Pharma was sued for a variety of civil and criminal offenses, including making false claims about the safety and addictiveness of OxyContin. In 2007, Purdue and three of the company’s top executives pleaded guilty to all charges and paid $634 million in fines.

But it didn’t end there. Roughly $160 million of that fine was set aside to reimburse the feds and states for damages suffered by Medicaid programs because of the false claims made for OxyContin. The state of Kentucky was offered $500,000 as its share. Instead, Kentucky refused the cash and filed its own suit against Purdue for $1 billion.

“I want to hold them accountable in Eastern Kentucky for what they did,” Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway told Bloomberg News. He said the wave of addiction led to misery and crime. “We have lost an entire generation. Half the pharmacies in Pike County have bulletproof glass. We had FedEx trucks being knocked off. It was the Wild West.” Purdue can only avoid a trial in Kentucky by making a “very, very significant” settlement offer, Conway said.

Kentucky’s suit, says Bloomberg, “alleges that the company trained its sales force to falsely portray OxyContin as difficult to abuse, even though its own study found a drug abuser could extract most of the active ingredient from a tablet by crushing it. Addicts quickly learned how to get high from a single pill, which contained far more pain-relief medicine than older drugs because of its long-acting feature.”

Purdue, which so far has never lost a single one of countless suits brought against it by individuals and groups (except for the federal case in 2007) is taking this one very seriously. After deciding they’d never get a fair and impartial jury in Pike County, Kentucky, Purdue succeeded in getting the trial moved to New York. But after years of legal hassles, Purdue exhausted all its legal options, and in January 2013 a federal appeals court upheld an order to return the case to Pike County.

Worse, the company jeopardized its position even further, by failing to file court documents on time. This has resulted in the court declaring Purdue guilty and liable for OxyContin addictions in Kentucky and all the problems that followed.

“This is a billion-dollar case – a billion-dollar case,” Purdue lawyer John Famularo said at a hearing early in 2014, as quoted by Bloomberg. The new disadvantage declared by the judge for failing to file the documents on time means Purdue would go to trial with its “arms tied behind its back.”

Adding to the company’s misery are two similar state-level civil lawsuits filed in Illinois and California against Purdue along with several other painkiller makers. A loss by Purdue in Kentucky will certainly boost the chances of these two other state suits in nailing Purdue. And it opens the door for many more similar suits said to be waiting in the wings to see what happens.

According to Bloomberg News, it’s become “Purdue’s legal nightmare – one that the company says could result in a catastrophic $1 billion judgment against it, based on the state’s allegations and the potential for punitive damages and pre- and post-judgment interest. With other lawsuits filed this year in Illinois and California against Purdue and other opioid makers, the Kentucky case could trigger more litigation along the lines of the suits that cost Big Tobacco billions during the 1990s.”

Over in Pike County, Kentucky, prosecutor Rick Bartley says “the ripple effects” of OxyContin abuse will be felt far into the future in his region. Bartley, who’s been in law enforcement for four decades, tells Bloomberg that babies were born addicted to painkillers, their mothers in jail, their fathers dead, and grandparents were left to try to clean up the mess.

“This being ground zero, I think there could be no better place for Purdue Pharma to have to stand its ground and answer to the people in our community as to the horrors OxyContin has brought over the years,” Bartley said.

Meanwhile, here at Novus Medical Detox Center, we continue our dedicated mission to provide the very safest, most comfortable and most effective drug and alcohol medical detox programs in the world. Don’t hesitate to call us and get your questions answered. We’re always here to help.

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Emergency responders such as police, ambulance and ER personnel, and the city, state and county administrators that pay their bills, aren’t happy with a recent price jump for nasal naloxone – the widely-used, life-saving drug that can reverse an opioid overdose in a matter of seconds.

Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the only U.S. maker of naloxone in convenient single-dose nasal delivery cartridges, has suddenly more than doubled the wholesale price, averaging $13 to $15 per cartridge to as high as $30 to $35.

The company is now impressing Wall Street, according to the financial news, and its shareholders are delighted with the company‘s rising stock values. But the price hikes are causing a big problem for the legions of emergency personnel from coast to coast who depend on nasal naloxone to save lives.

State, county and city health departments are traditionally under-budgeted. But with the recent recession and unemployment rates these past few years, the squeeze has gotten worse than ever. And the price increases are making it especially difficult for the many non-profits across the country that provide nasal naloxone kits to addicts and their families. These street-level, store-front groups are under even tighter financial constraints these days, and they’re on the front lines helping saving lives every day too.

New York’s Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman wrote a 2-page letter to the Amphastar’s CEO demanding an explanation for what he called the “unacceptable” rise in prices.

Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum that has urged putting naloxone into every police officers’ hands, told the New York Times that because it’s not an incremental increase, there’s “clearly something going on.”

And Dr. Phillip O. Coffin, director of substance abuse research at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, told the Times that the price hikes “will decrease access” to naloxone.

Naloxone has been around since back in the 1960s and has been a useful but little-known player in the ER. That’s where most overdose victims – the ones who are lucky enough to arrive alive – get another chance at life and hopefully, a new decision to get clean, all thanks to naloxone.

In more recent years, naloxone has been made available in many constituencies to all emergency responders, usually financed by state and local health care and law enforcement budgets. Naloxone kits are also offered to the general public, such as heroin and painkiller addicts and their friends and families, in some places even without a prescription.

In 2011, says the CDC, there were 16,917 prescription opioid deaths and 4,397 heroin overdose deaths – over 20,000 in all. This colossal annual death rate, which dwarfs every kind and type of epidemic since the world-wide 1917 influenza pandemic , will only increase until more funding, not less, is made available for safe and effective opioid medical detox and long-term treatment facilities.

Most heroin and opioid overdose victims who are pulled back from death’s door by the use of a nasal or injected dose of naloxone turn right around and go back to their dangerous habits. After all, they’re addicts, right? And naloxone is only emergency medicine, not heroin detox, not rehab, not addiction treatment by any stretch.

But once you’ve saved a life with naloxone, the seriousness, the impact of that event isn’t lost on the just-saved addict. It should open the door to at least a new discussion, if not a focused intervention, that might lead to treatment and recovery.

Saving a life, any life, is not just worthwhile but essential. And naloxone provides that opportunity hundreds of times a day across America. It seems ethically wrong on every level to deny anyone another chance at life when it is so easily, quickly and inexpensively possible.

Only time will tell if the soaring naloxone prices result in killing more Americans because of a board-room decision to make a killing on the stock market.

If you or someone you care for suffers from an opioid dependence or addiction, please call Novus right away. We’re here to help, and will try to answer all your questions about opioid detox and essential long-term treatment.

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Happy-New-Year-with-stars-2015_pngWe thank you for being part of our community and look forward to staying in touch with you over the new year.

In our 2015 newsletters and blog posts we will be bringing you both informative articles on the state of addiction and recovery in the US, plus up-lifting and inspiring stories of those that have beaten their addictions.

May your year be productive and fulfilling and an inspiration to others.

From the Staff of Novus Medical Detox Center

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